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Snoek biltong (Bokkoms)

By July 7, 2023July 10th, 2023FinGlobal

Snoek biltong (Bokkoms)

July 7, 2023


People have been curing fish and meat for centuries, and this tradition is still popular, especially on the South African western coast. Dried salted snoek makes an excellent snack and can give regular biltong a run for its money.

You might not know all there is to know about dried salted snoek, but here’s a top tip; if you get your hands on some, try it out with bread, apricot jam, your favourite wine, or even in soups or spaghetti. There’s no hard and fast rule about how to enjoy this delicacy, and we strongly advise you to try it every way you can.

If you’re hankering to learn more about unique South African snoek biltong or looking for a few tips on how to dry snoek at home using centuries-old drying methods, you’ve come to the right place!

What is snoek biltong?

Snoek biltong is a well-known delicacy from the West coast region of South Africa and refers to a type of fish that’s salted and dried in the sun and wind and eaten after removing the skin. Snoek biltong is simply salted and dried South African snoek or mullet that involves a Dutch style of drying and curing fish.

Where did snoek biltong originate?

Snoek Biltong can be traced back to 1658, after European settlers had made the Cape of Good Hope their home. Those who settled on the West Coast were granted permission to set up homes and fish in the waters, provided they sent a portion of their catch to the Dutch East India Company to be sold to passing ships. The catch had to be delivered, dried and salted, so the snoek biltong tradition began.

Snoek Biltong is sometimes called fish biltong or Bokkoms, originating from the Dutch word bokkem, which means goat or buck. The shape and smell of Snoek biltong made Bokkom a suitable name since it curls into a shape similar to goat horns when hung out to dry and has an undeniable smell. Goats feature scent glands behind their horns, releasing powerful, pungent smells similar to dried fish.

Today, Bokkom is no longer a cheap food for seafarers but a highly sought-after delicacy across South Africa and the world. The South African West Coast is usually called the Bokkom capital of the world. Bokkoms are deeply ingrained in the culture, and you can still catch a glimpse of large numbers of Bokkom getting prepared the traditional way and strung up along the sides of the road to dry.

How to make snoek biltong

Making dried salted snoek doesn’t require any special skills. You can do it at home with a few ingredients in South Africa or abroad. It’s similar to other dried fish, but you don’t have to go through a smoking process when preparing the delicacy. Here is an excellent recipe showing how to dry snoek at home and make delicious Bokkoms for snacking anytime.

What you need:

  • Course salt (generous amount)
  • 15 fresh snoek fish
  • String or twine
  • Freshwater
  • Open area for drying

What to do:

  • Fresh fish needs to have intestines, gills and scales removed, so start by cutting each fish to open it in half. You can use a knife or fish scaler to scale the fish and cut the fish through the belly to remove the gills and guts.
  • Place the fish in a container and cover it evenly with salt on top and bottom. Soaking the fish in salt water is another option and makes it easier to control the saltiness while allowing the salt to spread evenly around the fish.
  • Completely cover the fish and store the container in a cool, dry place overnight. The longer the fish sits in the salt, the better; it can last longer and make drying easier.
  • Remove the fish from the container in the morning and use a heavy object or weight to press it down. Pressing the fish flat ensures the salt is infused and prevents it from going bad.
  • Use a fish needle or other sharp object to thread the string or twine through the eye sockets of the fish and string them up into bunches of five fish each.
  • Once the fish are secure, dip them in fresh water and hang them outside to dry. Dry weather and a lot of wind with medium sunlight are suitable for drying for the best results. Bring the fish in at night to prevent them from getting damp, and take them outside again the next day to dry in the sun.
  • Your bokkoms are ready when the fish curl into the familiar goat horn shape and become thoroughly dry.

You can also use a drying oven to simplify the drying process if there’s no space outside or suitable weather. It usually involves using an electric fan that blows heated air into a closed room where the fish is hung. It eliminates the need to hang the fish outdoors or bring them in in the evenings and allows you to dry snoek at home even in wet winter months..

Expert advice for SA ex-pats right here at FinGlobal

FinGlobal gives you access to excellent recipes for South African cuisine you can enjoy at home or abroad, and that’s not all. If you’re considering moving out of the country or are based abroad and need help with your emigration needs, look no further than FinGlobal. We offer bespoke services from tax emigration experts to suit your situation and needs, ensuring your relocation goes as smoothly as possible.

FinGlobal helps you make the most of your international experience and is well-positioned to ensure a successful process, thanks to over ten years of experience. Contact FinGlobal today to discuss your needs and requirements by calling +27 28 313 5600 or emailing


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